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Best Paying States for Physicians

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Physician and Map
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Physician and Map
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Which states offer physicians and surgeons the best opportunities for career growth?

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Which states offer physicians and surgeons the best opportunities for career growth?

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News By Profession

Medicine & Surgery

Which states offer physicians and surgeons the best opportunities for career growth?

By Sarah Sutherland

The world of healthcare offers a wide range of career options - and some specialties, as healthcare professionals know, pay significantly more than others. However, could salary ranges differ for professionals working in the same specialty?

Statistics show that the answer is a resounding "yes." Crossing a state border could mean an automatic $10,000 salary increase, and if a physician traveled to one of the highest paying states, that number could go much higher. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states for the highest annual salaries for physicians and surgeons in 2015 were as follows:1

1. North Dakota ($283,200)
2. Iowa ($280,020)
3. South Dakota ($279,300)
4. Maryland ($272,420)
5. Georgia ($269,720)

Family and General Practitioners
1. Alaska ($235,600)
2. Iowa ($234,600)
3. Kansas ($228,590)
4. Hawaii ($228,220)
5. Mississippi ($223,250)

Internists, General
1. Arkansas ($265,360)
2. Georgia ($260,370)
3. South Dakota ($257,260)
4. Indiana ($252,310)
5. Alabama ($250,340)

1. Maine ($279,390)
2. South Dakota ($278,440)
3. Mississippi ($270,510)
4. New Hampshire ($260,230)
5. North Dakota ($257,410)

1. Mississippi ($266,040)
2. Utah ($236,630)
3. Montana ($235,440)
4. South Dakota ($225,780)
5. Massachusetts ($222,480)

Physicians and Surgeons (other)
1. New Hampshire ($244,710)
2. Alabama ($243,590)
3. Wyoming ($241,800)
4. Minnesota ($239,130)
5. Montana ($236,840)

1. Nebraska ($280,830)
2. Nevada ($278,550)
3. Georgia ($271,420)
4. New Jersey ($270,790)
5. North Carolina ($269,760)

Physician and Map

States with the highest paid physicians also tend to have fewer physicians overall. While the trend doesn't necessarily appear in every state, when it does, it makes sense: Having fewer physicians would mean having less competition, bringing more patients to each physician. However, does the possibility of a higher salary mean you should pack up and move to one of the above states?

Not necessarily.

Take Georgia, for example. Georgia appears most frequently in the lists above and fits the pattern of having fewer physicians overall: In 2010, the state ranked 39th in the ratio of physicians per 100,000 people. The lack of competition may initially seem appealing to healthcare professionals; however, the outlook is grim. From 2000 to 2010, the state?s population increased by 18.3%. While the number of physicians from all fields increased by 26%, the population of primary care physicians only increased by 14.5%. Additionally, more than half of Georgia doctors were older than 50 and likely to retire in the near future.2

While every county in Georgia had at least one practicing physician at the time the data were collected, state residents were not necessarily guaranteed easy access to the medical care that they needed. Of 159 total counties, six had no family medicine physician, 31 had no internal medicine physician, 63 had no pediatrician, 66 had no general surgeon and a shocking 79 had no obstetrician-gynecologist.2

Advantages and Disadvantages
The numbers can be frightening for civilians in the area. However, at first look, the lack of physicians may look ideal for the physicians themselves. But is it really?

It depends. In some ways, yes, it can be ideal. The lack of competition plays an influential role in the high salaries seen in states like Georgia as opposed to more populated areas. However, there are certainly some drawbacks.

Networking can be incredibly difficult. Physicians in these more isolated areas may struggle to connect with specialists to whom they can refer their own patients - and vice versa. While it is likely that general practitioners in these areas will have a good number of patients, specialists could have more difficulty connecting with patients because they won't necessarily see the same amount of referrals as specialists in more highly populated areas.

A lack of networking opportunities can lead to a lack of room for career growth. While physicians in these areas may not struggle with attaining a position with a high salary at the start, their careers can quickly become static. The shortage of physicians in these areas isn't due to a shortage of physicians in the nation: As of August 2016, the healthcare sector was seeing a 3.3% unemployment rate, as opposed to a 4.9% unemployment rate across all sectors.3,4 Although healthcare professionals may be less likely to become unemployed, open positions are unlikely to suddenly appear, and without open positions, advancing your career may be extremely difficult without relocating.

If you feel that you aren't earning the salary you deserve, you may want to think twice before moving to one of the states boasting the highest paid physicians. Staying put doesn't mean that you won't finally get that promotion you've been hoping for: Check out some of the tips for career development that ADVANCE has to offer.

Sarah Sutherland is a staff writer at ADVANCE. Contact:

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational employment statistics. 2015.
2. DiLonardo M. Doctor shortage in Georgia. Atlanta. 2014.
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health care and social assistance. 2016.
4. National Conference of State Legislatures. National employment monthly update. 2016.


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